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What would you do if… #Microsoft #edtech #uoltech #Articulate

December 14, 2010

Some of you may be a little dubious of my posts after a few recent ones… Indeed, if it were after me, on most days I’d have everyone do nothing but the right thing, and while they’re at it, also find the meaning of life and everything… I seriously would! However, slight humour aside, I have a pretty big dilemma right now (too big to even try to make this funny with a few choice images here and there) and I would definitely appreciate your advice. Here it goes (and let me warn you: there are quite a few variables in this equation):

What if:

every day your heart broke a little bit more as you saw people of all ages (but mainly youngsters, as that’s what gets to me most) failing to become the creative, interesting and inspiring persons they could be, because of ignorance and ridiculous, stupid or plainly wrong aspirations; and maybe felt like rounding up their parents and all their shady acquaintances for a really cold shower? And then you saw the brilliant work done by Sugata Mitra showing you that a genuinely good idea is truly stronger than social, economic and geographical challenges and wished you had the chance to build on that work…

– you saw lots of tech around (guess what! you even listened to HUGE companies talk about how more of it will solve all our problems), but could not understand how most people seemed to fail to grasp the simple fact that it is NOT just about better tech; better people should be everyone’s ultimate goal… and you were left wondering who those folks out there reading The Wisdom of the Crowds were, because they were definitely not on the stage lecturing on the benefits of their latest gizmos…

– you thanked your mum pretty much every day for passing on a really big tip (Math-teacher-style): there are *always* several ways to solve a problem, several angles from which to look at everything; then you saw Conrad’s Wolfram eloquent appeal to start teaching real, relevant Math to kids (teach them to program and thus understand the world properly) and said Yes! The tech is here, the drive is here, kids are clever, why indeed are we still messing about…

– since moving to Win 7 & Office 2010 in the last few months, Microsoft had been the source of a good number of pleasant surprises – not only in terms of functionality and reliability, but also R&D, general fun and competence training: Kinect (and especially the welcome change of attitude towards the simply amazing OpenKinect community), OfficeLabs, the Beginner Developer Learning Centre, ICE (Image Composite Editor), and the Microsoft Mouse Miscief being among the latest things tested on my (still dual boot ;)) Win tablet…

– you had collected a sizeable bag of prizes and scholarships in your teens |&| done your BA, MA and PhD in Computer-Assisted Language Learning |&| spoke a few languages with levels from “a bit rusty” to “good enough to get Eddie Izzard” |&| took part and managed aspects of big EU-funded projects |&| worked in and outside of the academia in and outside of the UK for about 10 years altogether |&| were a proud and active Certified Member of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT) |&| got a real buzz from presenting at conferences |&| joined the instructional design #Articulate community and almost immediately decided to get a cool team together and host the First European Articulate Conference out of a curious excitement for the field, and the ones every year since (that is two so far :)) out of outspoken appreciation for the outstanding Articulate members and desire to give something back |&| became just as attached to the wonderful learning technology group at your current job and jumped at any opportunity to buy people pie and cakes for the pleasure of sharing the latest about their very cool projects |&| tended to growl when expensive consultants were around who clearly were little more than salesmen with little if any creativity about them |&| were pleased to hear “beyond the call of duty” often associated with your name, but too keen to help the next person to make a fuss of the praise |&| were a true example of stream-of-consciousness writing when in bed with fever but your head too psyched with a prospect of a chance to make a change on a bigger scale |&| and still managed to be only 30…

ALL THIS BEING SAID, what if just a few hours ago a message landed in your Inbox (by the way, thanks a lot for circulating, Seb) about this particular job at Microsoft UK? (Quick, it may be in fact for you!) Is this too good to be true? Could this be a chance to make the difference you’ve been thinking about for so long or do you reckon they just need someone who’s got a killer sales pitch and cares not for what happens behind him (which would be a great shame but not a shock…)? It would be very cool if I could mail them something useful, like a T-shirt with a QR code rather than more stuff to print out and throw away afterwards… Or shall I save the long commute, stay friends with my local baker and continue to do meaningful things with my very cool colleagues – only on a smaller scale?…

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2 Comments
  1. Kirsten Huby permalink

    This is a really tricky one. I am struggling at the moment with the what is good enough question. What is making a good enough difference? I have an overwhelming desire to make the world a fair place and for children everywhere to be able to achieve their potential and meet their aspirations. It saddens me so much when the students I teach don’t look beyond their own needs and see how as the nurses of the future they could make a difference to the children and families they care for. Nor do they seem particularly interested in looking at how we can tackle (or at least raise people’s awareness) about the bigger issues that effect the health and wellbeing of children; poverty, adults who are too selfish to put the needs of children first and policies that have no mention of their effect on children’s lives. When I did clinical work nursing children with cancer I had tangible feedback every day that I made a difference – however small. Now I don’t know. I aim to be an inspirational lecturer, engage with new and innovative ways of encouraging learning and donate to charity to try and give some of my good fortune back to others.

    I cannot change the world I can only do my bit and maybe making a difference to one or two students during my career should be good enough. I don’t know if it is. I therefore think your dilemma is a tough one and maybe you need to know what is a good enough difference for you. You would be a sad loss to UoL as I think you do make a difference and have certainly inspired me to believe I can engage with new technologies, you would also probably be missed by your local baker. Good luck with your decsion making.

    • Very good points, Kirsten. I recently got the advice to occasionally settle for ‘good enough’, too. Not sure about it, though: I often feel I won’t necessarily make it in business because, regardless of who the people that come to me are, whether they pay or not and whether they are nice or not, I am so keen to turn out something I would be happy to show someone else, that I ignore everything else and provide everyone with the best I can do at that time. So my business model is a bit strange… Maybe in that case I’m better off in the academia…

      What you just said made me think of how strange a lot of humans are: not grateful for the many small and cool things around us until close to losing them… remembering religion when there’s a big ask involved… I genuinely think that it’s possible to get your head around most things – but it will be hard work and, like you said, not many people are happy with that; so much more comfortable to do whatever you like and complain the government isn’t doing enough to help you out when you’ve messed up beyond repair… The only thing holding me back at the mo is that I may end up among salespeople hovering from company to company because of the pay package rather than conviction and doing whatever they can to create even more artificial demand. I just hope I will be prepared and clever enough when I need it, to have a good idea of the other people’s character… We shall see… Thanks a lot, anyway. A lot of what you do and have done is what I wish I would be strong enough to do myself some day… Thank you!

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